What’s Ming’s party’s role in the Cameron-Brown world?
The July ICM poll in the Guardian did match its billing – it was full of surprises for all three parties. The Tory 39% equalling their highest share from the pollster in 13 years; Labour maintaining their 35% in spite of everything and the Lib Dem 17% being their lowest ICM figure since before the Iraq War.
Until now all the focus has been on David Cameron attracting Lib Dem supporters and this is the standard explanation for the figures? But is it more complicated than that? Is the rise of Cameron reinforcing Labour as well? This poll seems to suggest that it is.
For the first time in a decade and a half there is just the prospect of a Tory General Election win and it is this that might be keeping Labour stable and squeezing the Lib Dems.
For the decade and a half upto Cameron’s election it was easy for anti-Tory voters to consider voting Lib Dem because because such a move posed no risk. Major/Hague/IDS/Howard’s party did not present a real electoral threat. Thus the Lib Dems did well last time in spite of the massive Labour onsluaght in the final week suggesting that Lib Dem switchers could let Michael Howard in.
That assertion might have sounded implausible in 2005 but with the Tories nearly at 40% then it certainly resonates today and is one factor I believe, that is underpinning the Labour share.
So there is a twin challenge facing the Lib Dems: the party has to stop further seepage of its Tory leaning supporters going to Cameron and it has to find a way of persuading anti-Tory factions to stay on board – a task that might be even tougher when Tony Blair has moved on.